GIST scientists confirm that horseback riding is a


image: In a recent study, researchers from the Gwangju Institute of Science and Technology (GIST) confirm that horseback riding is a viable mobility treatment for cerebral palsy. The study shows that functional mobility in children with cerebral palsy can be improved through physical interaction with horses.
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Credit: Gwangju Institute of Science and Technology (GIST)

Cerebral palsy (CP) is a common disability in children characterized by abnormal gait patterns and the inability to maintain posture and balance. Although the disease is incurable, physiotherapy treatments can go a long way in improving movement and balance. One of these therapeutic approaches is hippotherapy (HPOT), which uses horseback riding to improve the functional mobility of children with CP. Although backed by scientific studies as an effective treatment approach for (PC), unfortunately there is little data on how HPOT results in improvement.

Recently, a team of researchers from Korea and the United States addressed this question, studying the physical interaction metrics between horses and children with CP during HPOT. My original research interests lie in the rehabilitation of people with neurological disorders, in particular walking and balance. However, I was not familiar with hippotherapy until fairly recently in 2016. After realizing how effective it is in treating children with CP, I was motivated to explore it further ”, explains Dr Pilwon Hur who led the study at the Gwangju Institute of Science and Technology (GIST) in Korea. This document was uploaded on September 6, 2021 and has been published in volume 18 number 132 of the Journal of NeuroEngineering and Rehabilitation.

The research team studied four children with CP during eight physiotherapy sessions. They placed sensors on horses and children to record their movements and track their acceleration and angular velocity. They found that the data from horses and children started to look similar over time, indicating synchronization between horse and rider. They also gave the children mobility tests after each session and observed an improvement in their motor skills at the end of the experiment.

We have found that the physical interaction between children with CP and horses, characterized by the adaptation of children to the horses movement and vice versa, is extremely important for rehabilitation to be effective ”, said Dr Hur.

Excited by these findings, the team hopes their work will provide a baseline for further research into HPOT. To my knowledge, ours is the first study to quantify these interactions and link them to efficacy.Explains Dr Hur. Such an understanding would help us optimize physiotherapy programs, improving the quality of life of children with CP.. “

We certainly hope that his vision will come true soon!



Authors: Priscilla Lightsey (1), Yonghee Lee (2), Nancy Krenek (1) & Pilwon Hur (1.3)

Original article title: Physiotherapy Treatments Incorporating Equine Movement: A Pilot Study Exploring Interactions Between Children With Cerebral Palsy And The Horse

Newspaper: Journal of NeuroEngineering and Rehabilitation


Affiliations: (1) Ride On Center for Children (ROCK)

(2) Department of Mechanical Engineering, Texas A&M University

(3) School of Mechanical Engineering, Gwangju Institute of Science and Technology

About Gwangju Institute of Science and Technology (GIST)

Gwangju Institute of Science and Technology (GIST) is a research-oriented university located in Gwangju, South Korea. As one of the most prestigious schools in South Korea, it was founded in 1993. The university aims to create a strong research environment to stimulate scientific and technological advancements and promote collaboration between research programs foreigners and nationals. With his motto, Proud creator of the science and technology of the future, ”GIST has consistently been awarded one of Korea’s highest university rankings.


About the Author

Pilwon Hur is Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Director of the Human Rehabilitation Group at Gwangju Institute of Science and Technology (GIST) in South Korea. His group is developing a control framework for rehabilitation robots to help people with neurological and physical impairments. His group uses the principles of neuroscience (for example, the principle of free energy) and theories of control, dynamics and robotics. Prior to joining GIST, he was an Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Texas A&M University in College Station, USA. In 2010, Pilwon Hur received a PhD in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

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